A shocking event occurred this morning, one nor you or I would have expected. A prominent political figure announced their sudden resignation. A figure who has certainly attracted controversy over the years, while developing a new, unique brand of politics. Nigel Farage has announced his sudden resignation as leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Bringing UKIP into the mainstream, and forming it into a major political force, he has now chosen to leave it all behind.
Operating largely on traditionalist Conservative and nationalist principles, Nigel Farage still managed to sweep up much of the working class vote. This position of representing ‘ordinary people’ was left vacant after the Labour Party abandoned them during the Blairite years. Farage was able to address concerns about mass immigration, and establishment politics — two elements left behind from Blairism. Along with his frequent appearances in front of a camera, with a pint in his hand, Farage was able to connect with the workers, and UKIP was soon an obvious choice for many working voters.
Sure, no one expected Farage to stay on longer than 2020. Yet this shocking decision will no doubt rock UKIP, given that he was behind the surge of support for it. At one point, many commentators actually began to dub UKIP ‘the Nigel Farage party’, due to his central role in driving the party forward into political significance.
Now that Farage has stepped down, it could hinder UKIP’s future success, and damage its electoral chances. Many had speculated that UKIP would become irrelevant upon Brexit, since the party was initially founded in 1993 with a sole agenda: to campaign against Britain’s membership of the EU. Yet with Labour failing to reconnect with the voters, and offer a stronger stance on immigration, it would still be a party that has working class support. Farage’s personality would have maintained this.
Yet it won’t just be UKIP alone that will feel the effects of Farage’s absence. After all, he was a key voice in the brexit camp. One would have expected him to stay on until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was finally invoked, and that Britain’s withdrawal from the EU went smoothly. Yet the country is in turmoil, and has no solid plan for leaving. As someone who supported Brexit, I am highly critical in the lack of management upon leaving. It’s almost as if the government never actually expected Britain to leave. In any case, Farage could have offered further advice for leaving, or formed an alliance with the new Conservative leader, who would ideally favour Brexit too. So it could be harder to make a unified force to direct Britain’s future now.
In his own mind, Farage likely believes he has achieved what he has set out to do: gain Britain’s independence, and get one over on the European Parliament, who had for long mocked his agenda. To Farage, the referendum wouldn’t have happened without him — and there’s no doubt his criticism of Brussels, and the implications of EU membership, had an enormous impact in swaying people against the EU.
A leadership election is set to be announced by the party’s governing NEC, after arranging an emergency meeting. Among possible candidates to replace Farage are Paul Nuttall, Stephen Woolfe, Diane James, Peter Whittle, Suzanne Evans and of course Douglas Carswell. So UKIP will still live on, along with Farage’s legacy. Yet the party will lose its edge with the absence of a crucial figure who helped it gain prominence in the first place. No doubt many other leave voters will mourn his withdrawal too.